Tag Archives: open-ended Friday

Feminism and Science Fiction

My favorite book is easily The Left Hand of Darkness, by Ursula LeGuin. I like how the book questions what forms a culture. It explores how the people of Gethen conform their culture and customs to their hostile weather and their unusual gender conformation. Perhaps this is a case of nature versus nurture on the grand scale. I think Left Hand was the first book I read with feminist overtones. When I read it in high school, these overtones were a matter of curiosity. Now that I am fully into adulthood, I guess it’s odd to see how prevalent gender remains in our “post-feminist” society.

Curiously, every woman I have ever known to read Left Hand likes it to some degree. Many men dislike it, I suspect because it simply did not resonate. There is something so enviable about the Gethenians and their relationship with gender.

I don’t necessarily feel deprived as a female, but things are certainly different for us than they are for men. Yesterday, I read an article in Slate about a female member of the skeptic community who was harassed extensively after she spoke out about sexism in their community. Just the day before that, I saw a documentary discussing the depiction of women in the media called Miss Representation. This documentary discussed the lack of female protagonists in movies, and how movies that do have female protagonists have male-centric plots and are still only marketed to women. It discussed how few women there are in high positions in these companies, and how few female directors there still are.

I feel that science fiction feels similar biases. I am much more versed in classical scifiĀ (50s-80s) than the more modern stuff, but women characters that aren’t sex puppets are few and far between. I reread Ringworld this summer, and a 200 year-old man is a serial philanderer with 20 something babes. Even Left Hand lacks a single female, although it’s certainly feminist.

Are the modern works better? My most recent read, “Wind Up Girl”, didn’t exactly break the mold. When I go to the store, I still see few female authors in science fiction; however fantasy seems dominated by women. Unfortunately, fantasy rarely captures my imagination. I’ve never met a woman besides myself who liked science fiction more than fantasy. I wonder if sci fi’s lack of interest in women is part of it. Are women just less interested in science? Feminism and science is a whole other discussion, alas.

Thoughts? Reactions? Suggested reading, sci fi, nonfiction, or otherwise?

What inspired your writing?

As I feverishly worked these last few weeks setting up this website and my new Etsy shop, motivation was a topic strongly on my mind. Motivation flows from inspiration, and so I pondered my sources of inspiration, specifically as a child.

I think my single biggest inspiration was the TV series Babylon 5. In middle school I hit a rough patch. I did not want to do homework or chores. I was grounded, forbidden from TV, computer, no allowance, etc to encourage a reversal. I missed TV most of all. Once a week, my brother watched Babylon 5. I could hide on the staircase and watch it through the rails. At first I scorned it; where are the transporters, I said. But desperation for electronics forced me to watch (in secrecy), and eventually I really got into it. Unlike any show I’d ever watched there were little connections to other broad topics.

I started to read the Babylon 5 books, as I’d read the Star Wars books when I was younger. In the scifi section at the bookstore I happened to see the name “Alfred Bester” on the spine of a book. This is the name of an excellent character in B5, so wondering if it was another B5 book, I bought it. Little did I know Alfred Bester was a classic 1950’s science fiction writer; the character was named after him. I loved the book, and went on to read everything I could find of his. Bester wasn’t very prolific, so this didn’t take too long, especially with no homework. I moved onto other classics of science fiction and started scouring the Hugo awards of years past.

B5 is chock full of other references, and I chased these down as well. Babylon 5 led me to read Tennyson and Yates (where I’d never liked poetry), and Michael Moorcock’s Elric series. Harlan Elison consulted on B5, so I read his stuff too. And I went on to read B5 creator JMS’s comic books. I think B5 promoted a sort of inspiration to learn in me which middle school could not.

There are, of course, so many other sources of inspiration I could list over the years. I loved “A Wrinkle in Time” by Madeleine L’Engle, and I also read a ton of kiddie SF I could hardly name anymore. I started watching Star Trek around age 3; I was especially obsessed with Voyager when that came out. I think the female captain intrigued me. I can’t remember a time at which I didn’t adore astronomy. But B5 still stands out amongst the others.

So enough of my thoughts. What inspires your work (and what is that work)? What first kicked it off, and is it the same thing that still motivates you? Does your motivation ever falter, and how do you handle that?